When it comes to relationships, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of couples that just don’t get along, fight all the time, and have to take heroic measures to keep their other half happy — or at the very least, not their worst enemy. But what is it that can be the best way to determine if your relationship is a healthy one or if it should go the way of the dodo (especially if you think your significant other is a dodo)?
While I’m no relationship expert, I certainly have enough life experience to know when something is horribly wrong — and beautifully right. Maybe everything I write past this point will be complete hooey, but I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m on to something. Whether you agree or not, drop a line in the comments section.
Like an engine
A great relationship, I think, can be compared to a smoothly running engine. Whether it’s an old VW Beetle or a sleek Lambourghini, it’s a fair bet that every car needs a working engine to move under its own power. Relationships are no different. In the case of an engine, it needs four things to operate: air, fuel, spark, and lubricant. Relationships need the same thing.
It might sound a little simplistic, but I think you’ll see my point. Every relationship needs love to make it move, but like any engine, love won’t even get started unless it has all the pieces it needs to get it going — and keep it going. It can’t exist on its own, and while we think we know what “love” is, we are increasingly unable to define it, let alone live it.
But when we work to build the things we CAN define — respect, trust, communication, and yes, even sex — the very real love that grows will be far more than just something that we say to each other, it’s a genuinely natural development of a healthy, whole relationship.
Fuel that Repect
We’ve heard the song all over the radio. If we don’t have that R-E-S-P-E-C-T, then it’s a fair bet that the relationship isn’t going to go much of anywhere. Mutual respect is a major key to any successful relationship, and yes, I do mean mutual. That means if one person does not respect the other, then there’s going to be issues. It’s the sugar in the tank that will shut it down.
Respect means that you value the other person as equal to you. You do not own them. They do not own you.
If the other person abuses you, “uses” you, or just calls you for booty call, then there’s no respect. It’s a pretty big deal. If your response to anything they say is one of frustration or aggravation, there’s a good chance you don’t respect them.
It’s all about equality. I’ve had friendships in the past where I finally realized they had zero respect for me as a human being, and ended the friendship quite abruptly. Life is too short to try to get people to give you the respect they don’t have.
In this, the very fuel that any good relationship must have is respect. More than that, it’s mutual respect. If you’re dating (or married to) someone, this is probably the very first factor that you need to examine to determine how healthy that relationship is.
If the mutual respect isn’t there, it doesn’t mean it can’t develop — but don’t put out false hope. People don’t change their character very easily. They can change behavior, but a person’s core nature is something that can’t be overhauled.
Trust that Fresh Air
Even if you’ve just started dating someone, it’s important to learn to build a level of mutual trust early on. You’re attracted to them, they’re attracted to you. You’ve established that there’s a strong level of mutual respect. Great!
But do you trust them? Do they trust you?
That’s probably the greatest key to a successful relationship. People travel. Sometimes it’s work related. But when the couple is apart for any length of time (even if it’s for a day’s work), then there is a level of trust that is required.
But that’s not all. It’s essential to build on the respect that you have and trust each other enough to discuss those tough issues as they arise. Did you wreck the car and you’re afraid of how the other person will react? That’s a lack of trust. Because you don’t trust them to stand with you as you work through that situation.
It’s also a lack of respect. After all, if you try to keep the crash a secret, then you don’t respect them enough to tell them the truth. Do you see how that works? Trust and respect. They go together like love and … well, yeah. Marriage. And a horse and all that.
Trust. It’s the fresh air that every engine needs. Respect It’s the freedom that gives every person to be who they are and trust is knowing that the other person is going to be the same person away from you as they are with you. And yes, it’s the respect that the other person has for you to have the integrity that you expect of them.
Talk about the Spark
Communication. I’ve touched on it already, but every relationship will indeed rise or fall based on the level of communication they share. One half of the couple will talk about how the other never communicates, and the other half just wished they’d shut the hell up.
Respect and trust are what drives good communication. Good communication, though, isn’t about the quantity of words — but rather the quality of words. Understanding the language of what the other person is saying is critical. For example:
“Okay,” one person says, “This bad thing happened here, and I need to know that you understand why I’m upset.”
“I’m sorry,” the other says, hoping to just get on with their day.
Instantly, we’re displaying a level of disrespect that could injure the relationship. Instead, the second person could say, “I know, and here’s how I understand this thing…” and then they talk about what happened — frankly. Sometimes, it’s important to take the emotion out of it and deal with the issue at hand.
But it requires — yes — respect and trust. Communication is a two way thing. You talk. They listen. They talk. You listen. Not just to the words. But what they’re saying. Take time to understand. Talk less. Listen more.
Don’t just talk about the problem — find solutions. Look for ways to resolve the issue. It’s all fine and well to make sure both parties “get it” as to why one person is upset, but the key is to “get it” by solving the problem. That’s where communication comes in.
We all know that when one person says, “fine,” it’s not fine. That’s just the reality. But what does it take to actually get to a solution? Talk. Listen. Listen some more. And when in doubt, listen even more. And if you’re unsure what they’re saying, ask them. “Do you mean this?” And don’t snap when they get it wrong.
When you have that spark — and you’re really communicating, and you’ve got genuine mutual respect and trust, then congratulations — that engine called “love” is about to ignite. Big time. Rev that sucker up!
But how to keep it going? Why, fresh oil, of course!
Push it! Lube it up!
Yes, I’m talking about sex. Great relationships need that lubricant of intimacy to keep it a lasting one. If you can’t have sex for medical reasons, keep the intimacy there. The point is to release those endorphins and keep those sheets fresh. Find a way to keep that motor going.
If you trust each other, you have mutual respect, and you communicate, that’s gonna be some of the best sex you’ll ever have. It’s fresh, it’s open, it’s passionate, and it’s oh-so-hot.
There are times when you can read exactly what the other person wants, and go for it. And vice versa. You can get a little more frisky. Maybe add a touch of kink to it. Either way, sex that’s an outward expression of the trust, respect, communication, and love you already have — well, it’s an explosion of passion that only makes the bedroom that much more sexy.
It goes beyond body shape. Or physical attributes. Or even member sizes. This is the kind of sex that rocks the house. And it’s incredible.
A loss of any one of these things can make it hard to keep the relationship going. A loss (or absence) of two of them makes a successful relationship. Take out three, and it’s dead on arrival.
Respect, trust, communication, and sex. Have them all, and you’ve got a great life with your significant other.
Read David’s original post on Skipping to the Piccolo.
photo credit: thaths – flickr, cc
DAVID W. SHELTON is a graphic designer, blogger, writer, activist, and author of The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity & The Homosexual Reconciled. He lives in Clarksville, TN with his better half and their many, many pets.